Here are the short and simple soccer rules
you need to know as a parent or grandparent:
I bet you knew that one. Most people who
know nothing about soccer still know that you aren’t
supposed to use your hands unless you’re the goalie.
A couple of points to clarify.
First, the rule for a hand ball includes
using any part of the body from the tips of the fingers
to the shoulder.
Second, the proper way to look at this
soccer rule is that a player cannot “handle” the ball. A
ball that is kicked and hits a player’s hand or arm is
not a hand ball. This means that the referee must use
his or her own judgment to some extent in determining
whether or not a hand ball is accidental contact or a
purposeful attempt to gain an advantage.
Believe it or not, there is also a
situation in which the goalie cannot use his/her hands.
This is sometimes called the back-pass rule. Goalkeepers
cannot pick up a pass that came directly from one of
their teammates. In this case, the goalkeeper must use
his feet. Infraction of this soccer rule will result in
an indirect kick from the point of the infraction.
A throw-in is taken when the ball
crosses a sideline and leaves the field. The two basic
soccer rules for a proper throw-in are to have both feet
on the ground and to throw the ball with both hands over
For teaching purposes it is common to
allow players under the age of 8 to take more than 1
Kicks & Goal Kicks
A corner kick or goal kick is taken when
the ball leaves the field across the end line – you know,
the end of the field.
If the offensive team kicks it out, play
is restarted with a goal kick. If the defensive team
kicks it out, play is restarted with a corner kick.
The goal kick is taken from anywhere
inside the “goalie box” as it is affectionately called.
It can be taken by any player, not just the goalkeeper.
The corner kick is taken from – yes, you
guessed it – the corner nearest to where the ball left
You may be confused at times in youth
soccer games to see a goal kick retaken. This is because
the FIFA soccer rules state that the ball is not back
“in play” until it leaves the penalty area, the large
box outside of the “goalie box”. No one can touch the
ball until it leaves the penalty area, and if the ball
is not kicked properly to leave the area, the kick must
The common rule of thumb on fouls is “If it looks like a
foul, it probably is.”
Too true. A player cannot kick, trip,
jump at, charge, strike, push, hold, or spit at an
So what’s the problem?
Soccer can be a physical, contact sport
when two opposing players both want the soccer ball and
no parent likes it when little Johnny loses the ball and
ends up on the ground!
“Foul!” cries the parent. “Little
Johnny was pushed!”
What you need to know as a grandparent is
that bumping or going shoulder-to-shoulder while
competing for a ball is not a foul until the
hands or elbows come up. This is a bit of a judgment
call and not all referees will call it the same way.
Some soccer rules are actually not black-and-white.
Remember though, the referee is ALWAYS
and Indirect Free Kicks
The simple difference between the two is
this: On a direct kick you can score by kicking the ball
directly into the goal. On an indirect
kick you cannot score. An indirect kick must be touched
by another player before it can go into the goal – that
is the kicker and a second person.
As a grandparent on the sideline, you can
tell whether the kick is direct or indirect by looking
at the referee. For an indirect kick, the referee will
hold one arm straight up in the air until the second
person touches the ball. No arm up, it’s a direct kick.
There are many soccer rules around what
causes a direct or indirect kick.
In general, a direct kick comes from a
contact foul or hand ball. Everything else is indirect.
A penalty kick results from a contact
foul or hand ball by the defending team within the
penalty area – the large box on either end of the field.
So it’s a type of direct kick also.
The ball is placed on the penalty spot,
12 yards in front of the center of the goal.
All players must remain outside the
penalty area and the penalty arc until the ball is
kicked. The goalkeeper must have both feet on the goal
line until the ball is kicked.
If after the ball is kicked, it rebounds
off of the goal or the keeper and stays on the field,
the ball is “live” and anyone can play it.
A player cannot touch the ball twice in
a row when putting the ball in play. You will see this
called many times in youth soccer. It applies
everywhere. You will see it frequently on kick-offs or
direct and indirect kicks. If a kid barely hits the ball
and decides to take another swipe at it, that is a
This also applies to throw-ins. A kid
cannot throw the ball in and then kick it. Nope. No way.
No can do.
and Red Cards
This is the way punishment is given in
soccer. The FIFA soccer rules give the guidelines for
when to give a yellow card to a player and when to give
a red card. I’m not going to get into the specifics
If a player is given two yellow cards in
the same game, that is equal to a red card. A red card
can be given at any time without the player first
receiving a yellow card. When a player gets a red card,
they must leave the game and their team must play short.
An ejected player cannot be replaced.
I decided to leave the best for last.
This is without a doubt the least
understood rule by grandparents and coaches alike.
Check your local league soccer rules
first. There’s a good chance that this rule won’t be
called for the U8 or younger teams. You may be off the
hook for now. However, if you are a U8 or U6 coach you
still need to know this rule so you can begin teaching
your players not to be offside.
The first thing to know is that you
cannot be offside on a corner kick, goal kick, or
throw-in. Don’t ask me why. Just accept it and go on.
The explanation is too long.
Also, it is not an offense for a player
to be in an offside position. The player must be
involved in active play as determined by the referee to
be called offside.
As quoted from the FIFA soccer rules:
A player is in an offside position
if: he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than
both the ball and the second last opponent.
Clear yet? I didn’t think so.
Try this. An offensive or attacking
player can’t be ahead of the ball and involved in the
play unless there is a defender between him and the
goalkeeper. Or, you can’t hang out at the other team’s
goal waiting for the ball.
A few other buts. You can’t be offside
if you are standing on your half of the field. Also, the
offside rule applies when the ball is kicked,
not when the player receives the ball.
To be honest with you, this can be a
hard rule to understand. Don’t get too hung up on it.
Trust the referees.
Download the FIFA Laws of the Game . They have good
diagrams of what is and isn’t considered offside.
If you really want to learn the offside
rule, either attend a referee clinic or
buy a video on soccer rules . The video will show
you several examples of real situations and will
logically detail why they were either offside or not
offside. It would be a great idea for your local league
to purchase one and show parts of it at a coaches’
meeting or clinic. The more people that understand
soccer rules the better.
Rules courtesy of